Rarely does the exploits of one man in football warrant such intense speculation surrounding his future. But then again, Pep Guardiola is no ordinary, run of the mill manager; far from it in fact. The 41-year-old, it has to be said, has been solely responsible for altering the perception of how fans view football, with his Barcelona side between 2008 and 2012 as scintillating as it was successful.
The Spaniard amassed an astonishing 14 trophies during his time in charge of the Blaugrana, and they did so in emphatic, dazzling fashion, sweeping all those before them. It wasn’t a shock to see Guardiola announce his decision to step down from his role as head coach at the Camp Nou almost 12 months ago in a press conference that attracted the interest of all those in the footballing world.
In an emotional message to the people of Barcelona, with the world’s media and the likes of Xavi, Victor Valdes and Cesc Febregas in attendance, it was hard not to feel an overwhelming wave of sadness wash over even the most stringent of football connoisseurs, with his team epitomising the term ‘the Beautiful Game’.
And that’s exactly what Guardiola’s Barca side were – beautiful. Fans idolised their newly favoured superstars, but while his run at the Camp Nou was always going to come to an eventual end, many never expected him to announce his decision to stand down at the end of the 2011/12 campaign on the 27th of April 2012.
It would’ve taken a man with a heart of stone to admit he didn’t deserve a break from the game.
The former Barcelona midfielder looked weary and exhausted during his announcement that crisp Spring day. It was a far cry from the fresh-faced, then 36-year-old who succeeded Frank Rijkard in the summer of 2008, with a full head of hair and incomparable ability to pull off the “suit look” on the sidelines.
Compared to his last game in charge of the club – the Copa Del Rey victory over Athletic Bilbao back in May – and it was evident that he needed time away to recuperate. Now balding and slimmer, the stresses of managing one of the most successful teams in history were painstakingly evident.
Remaining at the club’s training ground until the late hours of the night, studying the opposition to pick out that ‘eureka’ moment to turn the tide in Barcelona’s favour in the forthcoming domestic or continental encounter had begun to show. His love for the game may not have dwindled, but it was taking a toll on him, physically.
Regardless of his intention to take a year long sabbatical in order to recharge his batteries, speculation remained rife that he would take over a team in England, such was his admiration for the game.
His monumental respect for Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger only added weight to the potential switch to the Premiership, with Chelsea in particular thought to be the frontrunners in any hypothetical race for his signature.
Blues owner Roman Abramovich has long admired the way Guardiola’s Barcelona side played football and after the Russian Oligarch had shown a total of eight managers his diamond encrusted revolving door at Stamford Bridge since his purchase of the club in 2003, the opportunity to appoint his number one target had seemingly turned from a dream into a reality.
With Rafael Benitez drafted in to succeed Roberto Di Matteo on an interim basis, there was every possibility the Chelsea supremo would relieve the Spaniard of his duties come June and announce the appointment of Guardiola.
Nevertheless, it wasn’t to be for Abramovich. The very moment German publication Bild broke the news of Bayern Munich’s success in luring the 42-year-old to the Allianz Arena, a story which Kicker quickly followed before the Bavarian powerhouse officially announced he had signed a three-year deal with them, Twitter spiralled into a meltdown of nuclear proportions.
‘Why’s he chosen Bayern?’ many asked. Of course this all came after Guardiola all but hinted at his intention to manage in England in the future, with many of the opinion that one of either Chelsea, Manchester United or Manchester City were readying a confirmation that they’d lured the former Barca star to the Premiership.
The fact of the matter is, Die Roten are a club tailor made for Pep. A team draped in tradition and firmly believing in family morals as the cornerstone of their success, not to mention the strong fan influence, much like Barcelona, it isn’t any major shock to see to see him sign a three-year deal at the Allianz Arena.
The only main disappointment is that he chose the Bundesliga over the Premiership. Granted, German football is once again emerging from the shadows after somewhat of a recluse following Bayern’s Champions League win in 2001, but to see a similar brand of football that had been on offer at the Camp Nou in England was something that ultimately appealed to a majority of fans across the nation.
Granted, Guardiola is only 42-years-old. When you consider Sir Alex Ferguson is 30 years his senior, it’s a clear indication that the Spaniard still has ample time to ply his trade in the Premiership.
When you take into account that the former midfielde signed a 36-month deal with Bayern, if he opts against spending longer than three years in Germany, a possibility considering his apprehension to sign any deal that was longer than a year at Barcelona, at 45 Pep would still be one of the youngest managers in the league, theoretically speaking, when you take into account that at present only Brendan Rodgers, Roberto Martinez and Andre Villas-Boas are younger than him.
There is still ample time for the former Barcelona midfielder to put his managerial talents to the test in the confines England. If anything, his time in Germany will see Guardiola improve significantly as a coach, with the potential to lead Bayern to further domestic and continental success a distinct possibility.
However, I still find it hard to hide my disappointment. Perhaps I’m behaving like a spoilt child, taking the ‘I want it now’ approach, but a coach of his calibre strutting his stuff on the sidelines in England would only be a good thing for the Premiership.
In the continuous battle for continental dominance, England would’ve secured themselves a major asset in the quest for supremacy. But, if I have to wait until 2016 to see Guardiola grace the Premiership, then so be it. I suppose I can wait that little bit longer in order to see the Spaniard exert his immense managerial talents in the confines of these shores.